I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do
- Kutless, What Faith Can Do, from the 2009 album “It Is Well”
Let me set the scene for you: Matthew records the Christ returns to Capernaum, a town north of the Sea of Galilee under Roman rule like the rest of the surrounding countryside. Here, a Roman Centurion approaches Jesus and asks for a favor. Two things stand out immediately: 1) the man is a Gentile, and 2) the man is part of the oppressing regime. Undoubtedly, as Jesus was growing up, He had been raised to stay away from such people and He had probably witnessed first-hand some of the brutality associated with them. This man was a career military officer with control of over 100 soldiers. To be sure, these people were hated by the Jews. Yet, Jesus gives the man an audience and hears him out.
What the Centurion wants is for Jesus to heal his servant – someone who is not present at the scene and someone who is very ill. What is not surprising is that the Christ agrees. What is surprising is what the Centurion says next. He dissuades Jesus from visiting his house, saying he knows a word from the Christ will do the job. And Jesus is astonished. This hated Gentile’s faith put to shame the pompous piety of many of the Jewish religious leaders.
Jesus then tells the crowd that many religious Jews who should be in the Kingdom would be excluded because of their lack of faith. Entrenched in their religious traditions, they would not accept the Christ and His new message. I don’t know why the Jews gathered were surprised. Anyone who had studied the book of Isaiah would know that when the Messiah came, His blessings would be for Gentiles too (Isaiah 66:12, 19). Furthermore, several of the Old Testament prophets had stated the Christ’s message was for everyone (see Isaiah 56:3, 6-8; Malachi 1:11).
So what do we do with this story? For starters, we must not apply Christ’s promises so culturally that we forget to see what God wants to do to reach all the people He loves. Secondly, accepting Christ is an individual mandate. We can belong to Christian parents but membership in the Kingdom is not granted based upon heritage or connections. It is a decision each person to walk the Earth must decide for themselves. Finally, we must not become so set in our religious habits that we expect God to work only in specified ways. God should not be limited by a mindset or lack of faith on our part.
Over and over again in Scripture, Christ interacts with people from a wide-array of backgrounds and upbringings. Notice, He never turns anyone away who seeks Him out. That’s how we should be. The question I am asking myself now is: Am I the type of person that others seek out? And if not, why not?